In-House Legal Matter Workflow: A Journey of Continuous Improvement

A legal matter can have a long and winding path from request to completion, but it's possible to break down the legal matter lifecycle into 4 parts.

An in-house legal matter can have a long and winding path from request to completion. Although the complexity of getting from go to woe means that this path will vary enormously from matter to matter, it is possible to break down the legal matter lifecycle into four common component parts:

  • Legal intake
  • Resourcing
  • Resolution
  • Review/reporting

2277030_LegalWorkflowstylisedimage_1_052224With component parts, legal matter volume and legal data analytics show us where the commonalities lie, even between legal matters that may – on the surface – look wildly different.

Collating this information through a legal matter management software shows us how an in-house legal team can continuously improve the matter journey to achieve Nirvana: a faster, better and cheaper legal matter resolution. As the volume of in-house legal work seems to continuously grow, this is a necessity every Legal Department will recognize.

In the Xakia Matter Journey infographic, we have broken down the legal matter journey into component parts. The stages have been simplified for the purposes of demonstrating how analysis of common, high-volume components of a legal matter lifecycle can be used to achieve greater efficiency through the process.

Legal matter lifecycle stage 1: Legal Intake

Business requests for legal assistance can occur in a myriad of ways. As the popularity of more formal paths to legal intake continues to grow, most corporate, government and non-profit organizations will have the following first steps available to their business users:

  • An intranet page or ‘single front door’ for the legal team to direct them to
  • A legal intake form, or means by which legal information or advice can be requested
  • Direct communication to the in-house corporate Legal Department (e.g. old school: via email)

The key benefits of in-house legal intake workflow are:

  • A reliable, transparent and systemized legal workflow process for business users;
  • Receiving structured, complete instructions removes the back-and-forth between the Legal Department and business, speeding up overall turnaround time; and
  • Providing a structured means of reviewing requests and assigning the most effective and efficient resources for resolution of the legal request (see stage 2 below).

Legal data collected at this point can include valuable information to inform the structure of intake, setting it on a more efficient and effective path:

  • Where the legal requests are coming from, including individuals or specific parts of the business
  • A point in time of each day / week / month / business cycle when legal requests peak or trough
  • Types of requests being received, and from which part of the business, to assist with capability and capacity availability

Using a matter management system to gather this information, a Legal Department will have the opportunity to identify patterns in legal issues, to predict and proactively address the issue, or resourcing needs to appropriately address the ebb and flow of work.

Legal matter lifecycle stage 2: Resourcing 

Legal resourcing options available for an initial legal request will include: 

  • Self-service materials – widely available in most organizations in the form of standard contracts or other documentation, or frequently asked questions and answers
  • Automated responses or documents generated through use of an automation or AI tool
  • Review by the in-house corporate Legal Department

Legal data collected at this point is extremely valuable for understanding – and smoothing – the early part of a legal matter journey:

  • How often were self-serve materials accessed?
  • Who accessed these materials?
  • How often did (or did not) this resolve the issue?
  • Ditto for automation tools
  • At what point in each process did the business client reach out to the legal team?

When we capture this information, we achieve an opportunity to address any early (and easy) blockages to legal assistance and resolution, in pursuit of the frictionless legal resolution that makes a Legal Department so valuable to its organization.

For example, data may demonstrate that after downloading a specific legal document, the business always comes to the Legal Department for clarification about one section. Here we can reduce or remove the need for this step if we provide better guidance materials or redraft the section to ensure that it is self-explanatory. Smoother legal process, faster resolution, greater impact.

resoucing on a legal matter

Legal matter lifecycle stage 3: Secondary resourcing 

Noting that all the initial resourcing options may result in an unresolved legal request, a further review by the corporate Legal Department may be required.

The secondary resourcing decision by an in-house Legal Department may include:

  • The in-house legal team
  • External law firms or outside counsel
  • Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs)

A decision on in-house Legal Department resourcing will likely be driven by the 3 Cs – capacity, capability and cost – and form a critical component of the legal data that may be collected at this point:

  • Capacity – do we have the capacity (people, time, energy, priority) to address the needs of our business clients in a timely manner? Check your capacity dashboard.
  • Capability – given the issues being raised, which resource (internal? external? automation tools?) has the best expertise to address the legal issues in question?
  • Cost – how can we resource these legal issues in the most cost-effective manner?

The legal data collected at this point is critical to understanding the effectiveness and return on investment a Legal Department is able to extract from its resourcing composition between in-house lawyers, external firms and automation solutions. Combining this data with other elements (where the work originated, what sort of work is involved, resolution time) will immediately identify trends, blockages and opportunities for a faster, cheaper and better in-house legal solution.

Legal matter lifecycle stage 4: Resolution

However complex, all legal matters are eventually “resolved” and the common metrics we can extract are legal data analytics ‘gold’ for achieving a frictionless matter process.

Legal data collected from resolution may include:

  • Time to resolution or turnaround time, from first legal request to final resolution
  • Number of steps to resolution, including the number and types of legal resources engaged on the matter
  • Resolution outcome, including legal positions taken

Each of these data points offers insight into the achievement of ideal legal outcomes, business outcomes or the manner in which the Legal Department has facilitated the organization's strategic goals, and the risk profile of the company. Most importantly, using these legal metrics we can identify which parts of the in-house legal workflow process are truly working (so that they can be replicated in other parts of the business and legal process) and which parts require greater focus to smooth out any blockages and speed bumps.

legal analytics software to gain insight into legal matters

Legal matter lifecycle stage 5: Reporting & insights

We have reported frequently about the importance and value of Legal Department reporting for the purposes of being connected with your business and demonstrating the value of the Legal Department (see our Best-In-Class Legal Reporting white paper to learn more).

Use a legal matter management system to gather data and insights to communicate legal team resource utilization, identify red flags and demonstrate corporate Legal Department value.

Most importantly, reporting can demonstrate how opportunities for improved legal workflow process can be identified and show the operational efficiencies that can be achieved through active legal workflow management.

A journey of continuous improvement

The legal matter journey infographic highlights a different aspect of legal data analytics – the importance of understanding the legal process for the sole purpose of making it smoother. Recall that Xakia’s name origin is the Persian water wheel (sakia) that evokes the sentiment of continuous improvement and efficiency loops. With this analysis, Nirvana is not so far away – faster, cheaper, better in house legal software solutions.

To learn how a legal matter management software can help with your legal operations workflow, get in touch with the team at Xakia today for a demo, or sign up for a 14-day free trial.

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